Pro tip #1: Delete your Facebook. No, really. Delete it.
Pro tip number one: Pick a word any word – except maybe the hash tag #MeToo. The Me Too Movement, founded by a Black American woman named Tarana Burke to encourage empathy and empowerment for sexual assault survivors, became ubiquitous online and off-line in 2017. In China, women have been using the coded phrase “rice bunny” (米兔), pronounced as “mi tu” to get around would-be censors who would shut down conversations online about sexual harassment.
“I want a president” is a famous poem in some circles. It is a sacrosanct work in others, an emblem of an angry generation reeling from the AIDS epidemic, environmental degradation and trickle-down economics. Written by Zoe Leonard in 1992, it describes the desire for a different kind of world than the one she inhabits, and it was partly inspired by Eileen Myles’ write-in campaign for president 1991-1992 election. Myles is herself also an artist and published poet, winning a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2012.
Author Lance Rubin published Denton Little’s Deathdate in 2015. It follows a teenage boy named Denton Little who – like everyone else in the world he inhabits – knows the exact date on which they are going to die. Based on a single complaint in August of 2017, the book was pulled from all the Beaufort County School District’s physical and digital library shelves without following the district’s own procedure.
One might think of the covert, sometimes illegal FBI surveillance of the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and various other political dissidents as the petri dish where experiments with overreach were conducted years before they were unleashed on the general public. It is only within past decade or so that we are learning just how extensive the surveillance was through the Freedom of Information Act. It is only now that people like artist Sadie Barnette are beginning to come to terms with what it means.
On January 10th, the New Jersey prisons reversed a ban on Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, after a letter from the New Jersey ACLU challenged the ban. With a little reflection, it isn’t hard to see the bitter irony of banning prisoners from reading a book like The New Jim Crow, a book that argues that mass incarceration targets African-Americans in order to keep them in an inferior position both socially and economically. These men and women are made “socially dead,” to borrow a phrase from famed sociologist Orlando Patterson.